Ways to Make Back to School Shopping Happy and Frugal

Summer is winding down and the school season has arrived. Whether it’s for new clothes, backpacks, technology or books, the back to school season is one where there is a ton of shopping. Furthermore, no one ever wants to disappoint their children, so this is a time when you can really break the bank without even realizing it. If you are stressing about how you can frugally (and happily) get your kids back to school, keep reading!

1. Check Out Bargains All Year

Stocking up is always a great way to save money, and back to school supplies are no different. Throughout the year, school supplies are constantly sold at a discount. If you spend some time to stock up when things are on sale, all you need to do is bring those supplies out in August and give them to your kids.

2. The Dollar Store is Your Friend

This is one of the best kept back to school shopping secrets. A lot of the time, you can even find name brand merchandise for a dollar. Don’t underestimate hitting up your local dollar store before you shop for school supplies anywhere else.

3. Do Everything Online

Shopping online is convenient and frugal. Not only can you buy things for less, it also gets delivered to your door. Plus, many merchants offer free shipping too (depending on what you spend). If you plan in advance, this is probably the easiest way to shop.

4. Shop Late

There are always last minute deals and back to school time is no different. If you can wait on the items you need to buy, you might just be rewarded.

5. Shop Alone

Kids can be amazingly talented at wanting more than you can afford. In order to resist the temptation to satisfy them, shop alone. This way, they won’t be tempted by all the advertising in the stores and you can zip through and buy only what you actually need.

6. Shop Around

Sound shopping advice tells us to always compare prices. You can most likely find a place where the item you’re looking for is being sold for less, so be sure to check all sources first.

7. Second Hand is Not Second Class

Go to garage sales and see if you can pick up items for less. You just might find something very useful for the school year.  Another idea is to organize a back to school exchange program.  Do you live in a neighborhood with a lot of kids? Get all the parents on board and list out available items and see if other parents can take advantage of what someone else bought previously and is no longer using. If you can work out a deal where you can all trade amongst each other, it’s a win-win situation.

If you need additional help paying for back to school supplies and clothing, First Financial offers some of the lowest credit card rates around. To learn more about First Financial’s VISA® Credit Cards and apply today, please visit our credit cards page.*

*APR varies up to 18% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Article Source: David Ning for Moneyning.com

Create a Back to School Shopping Plan That Won’t Break the Bank

It’s that time of year again!

Summertime is winding down. Teachers are prepping to return to their classrooms and start decorating. School supply lists are starting to surface. A new school year is right around the corner.

According to the Huntington Backpack Index, in the 2018-2019 school year, the amount parents paid in back-to-school supplies was estimated as follows:

  • $637 elementary school kids
  • $941 for middle school children
  • $1,355 for high school students

There’s no way around it – school shopping is expensive. But, it doesn’t have to be. Much like financial planning, saving on back-to-school shopping requires a plan as well. With the right planning and preparation, back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to break the bank.

Take inventory

Before you go shopping and buy tons of supplies, take inventory of your house. Check drawers and cabinets to see what supplies you have that can be used again. Look at backpacks, lunchboxes and even school clothes from last year to see what can be kept and what needs to be replaced. From there, make a list and determine what your child needs and what you have.

Get the school’s supply list

Generally, retailers like Target and Walmart usually have copies of local supply lists divided by grade, school, and district. Those lists are usually also available online before they’re in the store. Check the lists, do a little research regarding prices, and make a budget accordingly. You can even check with your child’s teacher to make sure you’re getting the most important items.

Don’t forget about discount stores and couponing

Do you want to save some real money? Purchase things like notebooks, pencils, and paper at discount stores or even your nearby dollar store. If you’re into couponing, you can save some big bucks there as well. Poke around the internet and see where the deals are before you hit the stores.

If you want to see actual savings, don’t go into back-to-school shopping without a plan. Rather than charging up your high interest credit card, talk with us about one of our credit card options or a low interest personal loan that works for you. You might be amazed at the savings you find.

Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to be overwhelming or expensive. For help or questions about savings, check with any of our First Financial staff members. Stop by a branch or contact us today.

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Actual rate will vary based on creditworthiness and loan term. Subject to credit approval. A First Financial Federal Credit Union membership is required to obtain a loan, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. 

5 Ways to Save on Your Child’s Back to School Apparel

Although it seems like summer just started, it’s already time for parents to start budgeting and planning their family’s back to school purchases. One big purchase that comes with going back to school is buying new clothes. Here are a few tips to help you save money.

Consignment

Does your city or town hold a big consignment sale in September or October? Get online and do some research to see if there is one near you. If not, search for a local consignment shop. You may be able to find a great back to school wardrobe or backpack at a fraction of the cost.

Don’t Buy Everything New

All of the clothing styles your kids are begging you to buy will probably go on sale by mid-October. If you can, wait for clothing to go on sale or clearance or a good store deal. For example, maybe your clothing budget for back to school is $100 for each child. Instead of spending all of it upfront, try splitting it up over the next few months to keep an eye out for better prices. Don’t forget that the holiday season is also a great time to ask for clothes for your kids too.

Coupons and Clearance

Many stores will also allow you to stack coupons on top of sale or clearance items. Some examples of stores that allow this are JCPenney, Target, Old Navy, and Kohl’s.

Hit Up Garage Sales

This is a great time of year to look for a garage sale in your local area. Try to find a yard sale that sells your child’s size. Search Craigslist the day before to screen which garage sales near you will be worth checking out.

Try Saving Money on Uniforms

If your child wears uniforms for school, then you already know they can be costly. It’s hard to find uniforms on clearance because they are usually made just for one particular school. Try getting in contact with parents of children older than yours, to ask them if you could buy their children’s outgrown uniforms. You can also ask the school if they have any uniforms that were donated and available for purchase. If there is not a system in place, think about starting one. Many parents would be thankful for the savings break.

Want to earn cash back on all your back to school purchases this year? Apply for a Visa Signature Credit Card from First Financial! You’ll earn 1% cash back, no restrictions.*

*A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Visa® Signature Credit Card. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. APR varies from 15.15% to 18% for the Visa Signature Card when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. This APR is for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. No late fee will be charged if payment is received within 10 days from the payment due date. Visa Signature Card Cash Back: Your First Financial Visa® Signature Credit Card will earn cash back based on your eligible purchase transactions. The cash back will be applied to your current credit card balance on a quarterly basis and be shown cumulatively on your billing statement. Unless you are participating in a limited time promotional offer, you will earn 1% cash back based upon eligible purchases each quarter.

Article Source: Ashley Eneriz for Moneyning.com

12 Ways to Enjoy Life Without Spending Tons of Money this Summer

The greatest things in life are those worthwhile experiences we often simply take for granted. While some may think that having expensive items are what leads to happiness, below are some ways you can still enjoy yourself without spending a fortune this summer.

1. Walk the Beach

Taking a walk along the beach not only clears your head, but it is a great way to relax amid any stress in your life. Feeling the sand beneath your feet as you navigate the coast is unlike anything else. Plus, depending on where you live – this is a low cost experience for the day. Or if you’re just walking after hours (dusk) or in the early morning, it’s free!

2. Explore Unknown Places Around Town

If you have the need for adventure, taking the time to explore around where you live is always fun. You never know what you are going to find – maybe your next frequent stop or go-to restaurant or shop.

3. Take a Nature Walk

Following a path in and out of the woods is always an exciting way to escape from the world and have some much needed time to yourself. If you wanted to take it to the next level, outdoor camping overnight is also another idea.

4. Ride Your Bike

Not only do you get some exercise, but this is a great way to explore the area and enjoy the outdoors while also exercising. Bike rides with friends or family is also a fun warm weather day time activity as well! Don’t own a bike? Find a local shop that will rent you one for the day.

5. Hang Out at the Boardwalk

Bringing you back to your childhood days is always a great experience, even if you don’t spend any money. As you walk along the boardwalk with some cotton candy, ice cream or a hot dog, you can’t help but smile.

6. Read a Book

Getting hooked on a book opens an entirely new journey as you turn each page. Reading outside on a summer night is even better!

7. Surf the Waves

Take a surf lesson or rent a surfboard for a day at the beach. Even if you don’t own or can’t rent a surf board, body boarding can be a great alternative.

8. Play a Board Game with Family

Remember how much fun you used to have when you beat family members in the game of Monopoly or Chess? Relive that past time as you relish the classical way to entertain yourself (prior to video games, computers and tablets).

9. Spend Time with Family

Spending time with loved ones is always a great way to enjoy yourself, as each new experience you have with them becomes a memory that you can cherish forever.

10. Play an Instrument

For those who love music, playing an instrument is not only relaxing – it also helps to keep the mind focused and sharp. What a great way to entertain yourself while also enjoying the sounds of classical music.

11. Take a Friend Out for Ice Cream

Having fun with friends, especially when sharing a sweet treat is definitely the thing to do in the summer. The experience you have with friends is priceless. And the cost of ice cream won’t break the bank either.

12. Walk the Mall

Even if you don’t have any money to spend, “looking without spending money” is a great way to still enjoy yourself without dealing with the burden of that future credit card bill in the mail! Just be sure to only look.

Article Source: David Ning for Moneyning.com

How to Enjoy Summer Without Going Broke

Summer has arrived! Here are some less expensive alternatives to enjoying the season without breaking the bank.

Have a Picnic in the Park

Summer is a great time to be outside enjoying the warm weather. Gather your family, friends, or even just have a quiet day by yourself outdoors. Bring fruit, cheese, crackers, a blanket and a book. This is a great way to soak up the sun and relax. If you’re inviting a larger crowd – make it a potluck picnic, where everyone brings something to eat. Music, board games, and a Frisbee or ball to throw around also make great additions. A simple day at the park can be a lot of fun (and not too expensive either)!

Get Creative in the Kitchen

It’s nice to partake in buying yourself an iced coffee everyday, happy hour after work and trying new restaurants. But doing so several times a week can really add up. If you’re slightly strapped for cash this summer, think about getting creative in your kitchen at home. Make your own iced tea, iced coffee, and infused water. You can even add fruit and herbs to your ice cube tray, and freeze them to add refreshing flavor to your summer beverages. By working in your own kitchen instead of spending money out, you’ll save some cash and feel accomplished at the same time.

Enjoy Free Community Activities

In nearly every community, there are usually lots of activities in the summer ranging from free movies and concerts in the park, bike rides, festivals, craft shows, and more. Check out the various activities by looking at your community calendar, a local newspaper, as well as online. A little bit of research can result in a ton of free or low-cost activities that are fun for the whole family. If you’re in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey – check out our monthly Things to Do on a Budget blog posts!

Go on a Summer Purge

If you didn’t partake in a major spring cleaning, now is a great time to go through all your clothing, paperwork, and items around the house.  If you haven’t used it in six months, it’s probably a good idea to either throw it out, recycle it, donate it, or sell it. Having a purge in the summer is a wonderful time to have a garage sale and declutter. You can make some extra cash and learn to live with only what you need.

Write Letters to Family and Friends

Have you ever noticed that nearly all of your mail is typically either a bill or junk? The only time our mailboxes really get any love is during the holiday season. If you aren’t traveling for the summer to see friends or family, write them a letter and maybe include some photos. It will be an unexpected surprise for the receiver and also boost your mood!

Explore Your Neighborhood

You may think you know your neighborhood inside and out, but there may be certain hidden corners and areas that are undiscovered. Be a tourist in your own city. Go for a walk and get lost. Enjoy a bike ride on a different path. Make a wrong turn. Appreciate the little things and actively look for things you’ve never seen before. Having a new perspective can show you things you may have been missing out on, right in your own backyard.

Host a Themed Party

As fun as traveling is, it can definitely be pricey. If you can’t get away this summer to your desired destination, do the next best thing and host a themed party instead. If you are dreaming of going to Japan, have a sushi night and invite some friends and family over. If you are wishing for island beaches, make some Caribbean food, put on some island music, and print out some tropical photos. Having a themed event can be fun and inspire you to save, so you can make your dream trip happen in the future.

Summer is a great time to explore, get together with friends and family, and enjoy the outdoors. There are plenty of ways you can do it for less, so you can still have some summer fun without breaking the bank.

Article Source:  Melanie Lockert for Moneyning.com

Save Money By Taking Your Spring Cleaning to the Next Level

Springtime is here, and that means it’s time for that beloved annual tradition — spring cleaning. In surveys conducted by the American Cleaning Institute, responses indicate that as many as 91% of Americans and 96% of Millennials engage in spring cleaning, so it seems safe to say we’re all in this together.

As you open the windows and begin your routine of washing, sweeping, dusting, and decluttering, the goal is to spruce up your home’s interior while eliminating things you no longer need. When done correctly, spring cleaning can actually make you happier and healthier. So, it makes sense to be as thorough as possible. This year, while you’re busy cleaning your fixtures and furniture, it might be a good idea to update some common household items to more energy-efficient options. A more efficient home is an investment that can save you money all year long, and we’re pretty sure lower utility bills will boost your mood as well!

Simple Ways to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient This Spring

Energy Saving Power Switch: By completely cutting off all power when an electronic device isn’t in use, these plug-in adapters reduce the costly effects of “vampire energy.” While the term sounds scarier than it should, vampire energy refers to the power that still flows to a device even when it is turned off. These handy switches can be purchased online or in your local hardware store for $10 or less. And with prices that low, your return on investment can be quite substantial.

Low Flow Showerhead: According to a research project conducted by the Alliance for Water Efficiency, the average American shower lasts for just over 8 minutes and uses approximately 17 gallons of water. The average flow rate works out to be roughly 2.1 gallons per minute (gpm). By switching to a low flow shower head that reduces usage to 1.25 gpm, you can save an average of $32 per year per person. For a couple, that means about $64 in savings each year — especially impressive considering that most low flow showerheads can be purchased for $10-15.

Smart Thermostat: The Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, shop, and even do our banking. Now, thanks to smart products like the Nest Thermostat, it appears that it has also changed the way we save on energy-related expenses. While the initial price of a Nest will set you back approximately $250, the average annual home energy savings of $150 per year means you’ll recoup your investment in less than two years. After that, the savings will continue to add up.

Energy Audits: Not sure where to begin? An energy audit can help! Depending on your location, energy audits can cost anywhere from $250 to $600. And while that might seem like a lot to pay up front, the potential savings can make it worth the investment. During a professional energy audit, efficiency experts utilize specialized tools to identify areas where your home may be using excessive energy, which in turn – can help you pinpoint which improvements will make the biggest difference. To find an energy auditor and prepare for an upcoming audit, check out these helpful tips.

Throughout this article, we’ve talked about a few relatively low cost ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency. But maybe you’re thinking a little bigger this spring. If you need a little more incentive to make big ticket improvements like installing new windows, updating your HVAC system, or adding solar panels, federal tax incentives may provide just the push you’re looking for. Usually available in the form of rebates, these incentives are designed to encourage homeowners to update their home systems to be more energy efficient and sustainable. If you’ve been thinking about making some major energy saving upgrades around your house, don’t forget to see if the upgrades qualify for valuable government incentives. When it comes to saving energy and saving money, every little bit helps!